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  Interfaith Unity 

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RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE:  GLOBALISATION FOR THE COMMON GOOD 

GUIDELINES FOR ARRANGING GROUP VISITS TO HOUSES OF WORSHIP

POVERTY REDUCTION IN QUEBEC & NOW ONTARIO

The Golden Rule in World Religions

THE GOLDEN RULE POSTER Multi-faith Sacred Writings and Symbols from 13 Traditions  

Mayor David Miller Meets With The Toronto Area Interfaith Council

TRANSFORMING DEVELOPMENT Exploring Approaches to Development from Religious Perspectives

IMPRESSIONS ON THE URI ASIA REGIONAL ASSEMBLY in New Delhi, India

AN ODYSSEY IN FAITH By Farzana Hassan

A SALUTE TO CANADA My Adopted Land Of Unparalleled Multicultural And Religious Diversity

NAIN GATHERS IN VANCOUVER Stealing away to Paradise 

THE GOLDEN RULE: Unity in Diversity  

 

 

 
 
Essay by Paul Chaffee

 

NAIN gathers in Vancouver 

 

– Stealing away to paradise


For two years, the North America Interfaith Network (NAIN) has partnered with other North American interfaith organizations for summer gatherings, valuable experiences that bear repeating. This summer, though, NAIN gathered in Vancouver for four days to rediscover its own roots by doing what it does best.

Remarkable presenters took on a panoply of interfaith peace issues. Representatives from different traditions led worship. Fifteen 90-minute how-to workshops (you could take up to three) filled out the agenda. And schmoozing opportunities were protected from overboard programmers, so we went home refreshed rather than worn out. At a 45-minute evaluation before leaving, the word “mastery” came up several times as people shared their highlight experiences.

And then there was Vancouver, with enough rain this year to startle Noah. Somehow summer broke through, greeting NAIN with blue skies, balmy weather, and one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Food, lodging, and the program space were close to each other, with most activity in the Iona Building. Called Chancellor House when it was built in 1927, this stately, fortress-like stone building, home to Vancouver School of Theology, completed a total renovation last January. The massive central tower offers cutting-edge technological amenities and meeting rooms with amazing views. For late evening refreshments many headed to the new porches near the top of the tower. We witnessed miles of inland sea, snowcapped mountains, and an occasional bald eagle, as the sun sank into the horizon.


2006 NAINConnect – Passion for Peace, Commitment to Change

About 50 attended, the crowd more than doubling when co-registrants from the concurrent World Peace Forum attended our plenary sessions. A keynote from Rt. Rev. Michael Ingham, Episcopal Bishop of Vancouver and interfaith activist, surveyed the challenges and opportunities facing the interfaith movement. His subtext was the difficult but critical task of addressing intrafaith relationships with what we have learned about interfaith relationship-building. The rest of the plenary presentations were equally compelling:

* The first morning together featured master teacher Nancy Fisher and a Buddhist perspective. She presented a case-study about public-school students learning mindfulness (a safer word for parents, she said, than meditation). The project and its measurable results have been so transforming across Vancouver’s socio-economic spectrum that Harvard is paying close attention.

* Douglas Roche and Lois Wilson, national leaders in Canada’s political and religious life, offered a devastating expose about a second nuclear arms race more dangerous than the first. Rather than predict a doomsday scenario, they challenged faith communities to join together to end this deadly race.

* Louay Safi, responsible for leadership development for the Islamic Society of North America, talked about peacemaking from a Muslim point of view. A lively conversation followed responses from Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian leaders, focused largely on Abrahamic traditions. The need to bring indigenous and Asian traditions to this ongoing discussion was noted.


One evening was spent looking at a variety of interfaith videos. Another was devoted to a downtown peace concert featuring an interfaith gospel choir, chants from Jewish singers, drumming from Aboriginal musicians, and kirtan (sacred songs) from Sikhs. If 200 NAIN members and friends could have been with us for the week, it would have been better. Otherwise it came close to perfect. And since the group was small, it enjoyed an intimacy and family bonding nurtured by our hosts and the volunteers who were so good to us.

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The Larger Picture

As so many have observed, relationship-building is as important as program at NAIN gatherings, even in a year of exemplary programming. Having young adults fully participate enhanced this networking. Nearly 20 percent of Vancouver registrants were in the under-30 category, and an auction on the last day generated over $900 to fund young-adult involvement. Two young leaders – one Christian, one Muslim – were elected to the board before we headed home.

Ten percent of the registrants have been or are United Religions Initiative (URI) leaders, including Yoland Trevino, the current chair of URI’s Global Council. Considerable time was spent discussing ways to build mutual support amongst our different grassroots interfaith organizations, even when we don’t formally partner on a project.

For example, NAINConnect 2007 will be held in Richmond, Virginia, July 12-16, with a focus on “Embracing Religious Freedom.” The program is largely designed and organized already. Stephen Fuqua, a staffer for URI-North America, took the next creative step. He used his time in Vancouver to set up a framework for URI Cooperation Circles in North America to support and attend NAIN’s Richmond gathering next year. Good for NAIN – good for URI-NA.

In 2008 NAINConnect comes to San Francisco, and the tentative theme is “Hearing the Interfaith Voice in North America.” Under this umbrella, issues that may be explored in 2008 include… finding an interfaith voice, collaborating for peace and justice, engaging fundamentalists, relationships between indigenous and established communities, shared religious/spiritual,indigenous concerns for the Earth, and the importance of intrafaith dialogue to the interfaith movement. Online study groups will be organized to study these issues over the next two years.

Generosity and hospitality empower the journey from being strangers to being friends. Vancouver set a benchmark for the kind of hospitality that empowers interfaith relationship-building and refreshment. Barry Cooke and Judith Hardcastle from the Multifaith Action Society of BC did the heavy lifting, and their smartest move was developing a strong team to help with the details. They were magnificent.

Vancouver’s crowning gift was the outdoor salmon barbeque the last evening. Who knew that the young people would start dancing to the live jazz trio, much less that ‘old’ as well as ‘young’ would make their way over to the new patio and join the celebration? A retired Vancouver School of Theology professor watched approvingly, observing that it was probably more celebration than the seminary has ever seen.

Paul Chaffee
NAIN Program Chair

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